Culture24 travels back in time for a Tudor royal wedding

By Ed Sexton | 16 April 2009
A photo of a man and woman in Tudor costume

Henry VIII and Kateryn Parr give their wedding speeches. Picture © C24

Henry VIII: Heads and Hearts, Hampton Court Palace, London

Visitors to Henry VIII's favourite palace are being transported through a Tudor time warp to celebrate the 500th anniversary of his accession to the throne and final marriage to Kateryn Parr.

Keen to take part in a royal wedding, my colleague and I paid a visit to Hampton Court, where we got stuck in with the preparations for the big day.

Henry's representatives greeted us in the Base Court, where we were told we would be playing a big part in the day, from choosing the bride's dress to joining the King for his stag do.

We joined the bride's party, lead by her sister, Anne Herbert, and after a brief introduction we were lead to the wardrobe room, where everyone got into the wedding spirit by donning Tudor robes.

Anne gave us some tips on royal protocol in case we were lucky enough to bump into the mighty monarch himself - we were told to get down on one knee, keep our eyes low and rise only when the King signals.

A picture of two women in tudor costume

Kateryn Parr and her sister Anne Herbert. Picture © C24

Anne led us from the courtyard up to The Great Hall, bedecked with beautiful tapestries, where preparations were under way for the spectacular feast to celebrate Henry’s wedding

We moved further into the King’s apartments to the Great Watching Chamber where guests were enjoying a selection of popular Tudor games

We were joined by the future Queen, Kateryn Parr, who told visitors she only wanted a small ceremony and that she was worried about what she was going to wear - then suddenly the crowd fell silent as the King’s arrival was announced.

Keen to fully embrace our roles, we fell to one knee and quickly knew this was the right thing to do as the King bellowed at other disobedient members of the court to drop down and show some respect.

Following Henry's departure, Anne lead us on through the palace. There we left the royal party and got down to work with reviewing the exhibitions and exploring further.

A picture of two people in cloaks

Culture24's Ed Sexton and Anna Brice in Tudor costume. Picture © C24

The palace and grounds at Hampton Court Palace are playing host to a year-long series of events to mark the occasion, granting exclusive access to areas never seen before.

Henry's Council Chamber is home to a Henry's Women exhibition, the first time in history that the portraits of the mighty monarch's wives and daughters have been displayed together at Hampton Court (a review can be read here..)

A further highlight of the celebrations is the groundbreaking scientific project that has taken place to virtually restore one of Henry VIII's tapestries. The Oath and the Departure of Eliezer piece from the Story of Abraham series was commissioned by Henry to celebrate the birth of his son, Edward.

a picture of a garden

The gardens at Hampton Court Palace. Picture © C24

The centuries-old tapestry has understandably faded over the years, but researchers at the University of Manchester have carried out detailed research to find out what it would have looked like upon being first presented to the King.

It is brought back to life by using a projector to beam the original colours onto it. The difference in colour is breathtaking as the tarnished threads and faded colours come alive before your eyes.

The projector allows the public to view the tapestry in all its splendour without damaging the original condition of the tapestry.

The tapestry would have cost a whopping £2,000 when the King commissioned it, which was an enormous sum of money when court painters such as Holbein received a salary of just £30 a year.

a photo of a tapestry

Henry VIII's tapestries revealed. Picture © C24

We rejoined the royal couple in the Great Watching Chamber after their wedding in Hampton Court's Chapel Royal, and were lucky enough to be some of the first people to congratulate the happy couple on their wedding day.

Henry and Kateryn then led a procession out to the Base Court, followed by a jubilant crowd shouting jubilant messages in support of the King and his spouse.

The excited pair then gave their speeches, although Henry seemed rather keen to head off to the marital bed, which he told us had already been blessed by the Bishop.

Visitors young and old took part in all of the events, showing great gusto to ensure the day was a right royal knees up, giving fashion tips to the Queen and arm wrestling the King on his stag do.

A man and woman in Tudor costume

C24's Anna congratulates the King. Picture © C24

The live interpreters were completely immersed in their roles and involved members of the audience at regular intervals, reminiscing about previous historical events and pointing out some visitors as members of their family who were due to attend the wedding.

Historic Royal Palaces has produced a Hello magazine-style brochure of the day so visitors can learn more about Henry, his wives and his wedding in an easy to understand, attention-grabbing format.

After being forcibly removed from our Tudor cloaks, it was with great reluctance that we left our roles as members of the King's court and headed back to our normal lives. I wondered whether my colleagues could get used to calling me Sir Ed – I think it has a certain ring to it...

Showing logo of HISTORY Channel with the letter H in gold

To celebrate the anniversary of history heavyweight Henry VIII, HISTORY (TM) have lined up a series of programmes delving beneath the well-known stories and uncovering the secret world of Henry's life.

See the clips below for previews of Inside the Body of Henry VIII, which reveals the impact the King's lifestyle had on his health – and ultimately the history of England – including some of the bizarre and gruesome treatments he endured.

A spokeswoman for HISTORY said: "HISTORY is proud to support Henry VIII Dressed to Kill at the Tower of London and HISTORY have produced great programme with Historic Royal Palace: Inside the World of Henry VIII - which recaptures the splendour, excitement and drama of the Tudor king’s court, in a unique behind the scenes view of his beloved home - Hampton Court Palace."

See the HISTORY website for more details and to take advantage of a special offer for Historic Royal Palaces membership.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned: